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Born in Denver
This editorial makes a contrast between liquor licenses in Steamboat Springs to the number of retail MJ licenses. This is not an “apples to apples” comparison. There are 119 liquor licenses in Steamboat. The vast majority of the liquor licenses in Steamboat are for restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages to be consumed on their premises. A better comparison would have been to retail liquor licenses.
As of 5/4/2015 there were 10 retail liquor stores in Steamboat. This represents 8.4% of total liquor licenses. Statewide there are 13,347 liquor licenses of which 1,591 are retail liquor stores or 11.9%.
In 2014 the City of Steamboat received $290K in city sales tax from the 3 retail MJ establishments. During the same period $753K in city sales tax was received from the 10 retail liquor stores. Essentially over $1 million in sales taxes were collected from retail establishments that sell mind-altering substances in various forms.
From my perspective the MJ retail trade industry sector in Steamboat is evolving. This evolvement is viewed as too fast for some and too slow for others. It will look different in 5 to 10 years from now than it looks today. Evidence of this is the number of new and tweaks made to the state laws governing the cultivation/wholesale and retail that occurred last legislative session. There are not the same scope of changes occurring with retail liquor stores regulations.
There has not even been a full calendar year with the 3 MJ retailers operating. I am comfortable with a “slow-go” approach that allows the possibility of learning from our local experience as well as the experience of other communities. If the tuition associated with this “slow-go” learning is having only 3 MJ retail licenses (an acknowledge limitation on “Free-Enterprise” for the present day), this seems like the prudent approach. However, it will not likely always be this way.
Without question in my mind there will be more than 3 retail MJ establishments in Steamboat’s future. Where MJ retailers will be allowed to do business will also change. We are going to discuss the location restrictions at the July 7th Council meeting.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow council members.)
Hi Scott B -
In reviewing the April 2, 2013 City Council Packet – Agenda Item #15 it indicates that for a project like this the Community Development Code (CDC) requires 1.5 parking spaces per unit. So 42 units would mean 63 parking spaces (42x1.5 = 63). Since the project is located next to transit - the developer was allowed to reduce the number of required parking spaces by 10% to 57 spaces. (63-10% = 57).
If we assume that the 9 two bedroom units will have at least 2 vehicles and each of the 33 units had one vehicle that would mean 51 parking spaces [(9x2) +33= 51]. However, I think it is reasonable to expect that 1/3 of the one-bedroom units would be occupied by 2 people (couples) that also each have vehicles. If this happens parking for the residents let alone guest is going to be a challenge. This likely parking shortage is going to have some spill over impact to other properties located nearby and this is where the “rub” will come.
The density bonus given to SkyView Apartments as a result of its proximity to transit adds another element to the discussion about bus service beyond cost efficiencies alone. In this context the bus system becomes an essential service because it has been woven into the Community Area Plan (CAP) that encourages in-fill and higher densities where appropriate. If bus service is not reliable this element of the CAP falls apart and contributes to chronic long lasting parking problems.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by other members.)
The proposed downtown infrastructure improvements and the much discussed downtown district of the URA are two different things. However, over and over again they are discussed as if they are one in the same.
I am all for doing some infrastructure improvements downtown. Specifically undergrounding the utilities, providing public restrooms, street lighting and improving sidewalks on city owned property.
The current list of proposed downtown infrastructure improvements has a price tag of $10.3 million. A lot of this money is for sidewalks along Oak Street and the side streets connecting to Lincoln Ave. This list of infrastructure improvements is likely going to be paired down. On Oak Street and the connecting streets I think having curbs and functioning safe sidewalks is a good idea. However, there is a big price difference between functionally safe sidewalks and really splendid sidewalks.
Of the $10.3 million, dedicated funding sources for about $3 million has been identified. A substantial share of the cost of sidewalks can be addressed via property owner sidewalk assessments who would bare the majority of the cost. (This would be the cost for a functionally safe sidewalk not a splendid sidewalk.) I would not be surprised that the cost of public infrastructure that currently does not have a dedicated funding source could be in the $4 to $5 million range if we took a very sharp pencil to the list.
How to pay for this $4 to $5 million? One way is establishing a Downtown District of the URA and use tax increment financing applied to both sales and property taxes. This is A way to finance these projects, however, it is not the ONLY way. There are a host of other ways that have yet to be fully discussed and the pro/cons well understood. It is possible to have financing options that do not involve property taxes.
I would like to stop having this discussion framed that it is URA or Nothing.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow council members.)
What is a “diverse” economy? A definition I have used for a number of years when I did work for Yampa Valley Data Partners was that an economy is diverse if the top three private industry sectors are the source of 50% or less of the jobs and 50% or less of labor source personal income. This approach avoids looking only at one industry sector and assuming it is the most important.
Looking at the greater Steamboat Springs area the top three industry sectors for jobs:
Arts, entertainment, and recreation, and accommodation and food services account for about 23% of the jobs; Educational services, and health care and social assistance at 18% and Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services at 11%. (Total 52%)
The top three industry sectors for labor source personal income:
Construction at 17%; accommodation and food services at 15%; Educational services, and health care and social assistance at 13% (Total 45%). Professional, scientific, and management, and administrative and waste management services also at 13%
The numbers above are from 2013. Over the 15+ years that I have paid attention to this stuff – the percentages in both categories have been moving toward a more diverse economy.
I would not consider Steamboat Springs a tourism economy. The industry sectors associated with tourism does have a significant employment footprint in the local economy, however, these jobs have lower wages.
Hi Scott –
You are spot on! We are not a “resort (tourism) economy” and have not been for several years. Speaking metaphorically we do, however, live in the "house" that tourism built and it is a very nice house.
If we focus primarily on being a great place to live – great places to live are almost always great places to visit. It is highly likely that Steamboat is as valuable to Triple Crown Sport's product offering as Triple Crown is valuable to Steamboat.
Hi Collin –
Thanks so much for your posting. Good to hear from you.
If downtown is compared on the basis of the following categories: Misc. Retail, Sporting Goods and Restaurants, the downtown area accounts for about 20% of taxable sales city wide for these categories. However, this 20% share is primarily driven by restaurant sales. Downtown Restaurants account for over 50% of ALL restaurant sales in Steamboat Springs. In addition, the local population accounts for about 60% of these downtown restaurant sales.
Is downtown important? Absolutely!! However, downtown is not so broken that it should in any way be considered “blighted” and that is where the “rub” is. The blight designation is nothing more than a step in a process necessary to create an Urban Renewal Authority (URA) district and use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a way to re-direct funds generated from sales and property taxes to improving downtown infrastructure.
Not to be misunderstood I believe some infrastructure improvements downtown are necessary and long overdue. Improving sidewalks and providing public restrooms is something that needs to occur. The $10.3 million project list could currently being discussed could quickly be narrowed down to about $3.5 to $4 million if Council wanted to. This would be nothing more than a “nifty” but not necessary discussion. At $4 million this could be reasonably folded into the City’s existing six year Capital Improvement Plan. It would mean that projects downtown would compete with the host of projects the city is planning. I am OK with this because that is what you should expect City Council to do - evaluate and prioritize.
My frustration in this whole URA/TIF discussion has been presented over and over again as URA/TIF or nothing. The URA/TIF is the only way things can be paid for downtown. That is baloney. The more I learn about TIFs as a financing tool they are a bag of snakes and someone gets bitten.
So where does that leave us? I know I am going to keep pushing for options not only in the scope of the planned projects, the associated cost but also in viable ways to pay for what public improvements downtown are needed and not necessarily “nifty”.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow members.)
The key question I am wrestling with is whether or not workforce housing and specifically for seasonal employees is a “business” the City of Steamboat Springs should be actively involved in. Whose problem is this to solve?
When it comes to seasonal workforce housing I do not think this is the responsibility of Steamboat’s taxpayers. To be blunt – employers who are highly dependent upon a seasonal workforce will figure this out or they won’t.
It does not cause me heartburn to reach agreements such as City Council did last Tuesday night with the Alpiner whereas a temporary special use arrangement was reached with the owners’ of that property subject specific requirements.
The Iron Horse is different because it is a City owned asset. I am comfortable with having the marketplace sort out what the highest and best use of this property is. Essentially whoever wants to pay the most has a vested interest in its highest and best use. That highest and best use may or may not include “workforce” housing. I am OK with that.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be shared by my fellow members.)
Good Morning Jon –
Your care for this community has always been evident. As you well know being on City Council is not for the faint of heart. In many ways you are one of my role models as I now serve on City Council. Your measured and thoughtful approach is one that I admire highly.
One of the frustrations I have had in the discussion about the Downtown District of the URA using a TIF is that the discussions about the physical infrastructure improvements have not been separated from the funding mechanism.
I think you and I would agree that physical infrastructure improvements are needed downtown. The scope of the infrastructure improvements is debatable. I think you and I would also agree how those items get paid for is another matter for debate. A TIF is just one way of paying for them. It is not the only way.
So here is a thought – would you be willing to join me in a “pro/con” series of editorials on this topic? “Postings” such as this reach a rather limited group.
(Although I am a member of City Council my opinions are my own and may not be those shared by my fellow City Council members.
Hi Neal –
Simply put, the City Charter adopted in the early 70’s gives City Council total control over capital expenditures. Citizens do not get to vote on capital projects unless the project is being funded through a methods subject to TABOR restrictions.
I suppose a citizen’s initiative could amend the existing City Charter which would limit Council’s ability to expend funds on a capital project over some pre-determined amount. At the core of this question does the citizenry trust City Council? If not, every two years there is an opportunity to elect four new members to City Council. This is why it matters who is elected to City Council.
In the interim if one is opposed to a project make sure individual Council members are aware of their reasons. Complaining about City Council at the coffee shop or at the Post Office may be cathartic but not very effective. Watching City Council meetings “live” on TV or replay – maybe informative but not as effective as coming to City Council meetings. What is more impactful is calling council members, writing editorials and speaking during Public Comment. I recognize that actively engaging in the civil discourse can be time consuming, frustrating and often fruitless. (Been there done that!) However, if one is passionate about an issue there is no need to be shy. (Let’s not fool ourselves – posting on articles likely has more entertainment value than civic value.)
City Council can refer almost anything to the ballot. However, Council does not often do this. The last time I recall that City Council referred something to the ballot was in 2007(?) when they asked the voters to approve an increase in Council’s pay.
It would be possible for City Council to refer to the voters a decision to limit Council’s ability to form URA districts and used Tax Increment Financing. Possible? YES. I could make this motion. I think that there would be a 50/50 chance it would die for the lack of a second – and if seconded fail 6/1 or at best 5/2. What’s the point? A grassroots citizen’s petition initiative would be more effective and send a much clearer message and/or make this a campaign issue in the upcoming November election.
3 – One of the key underlying reasons this specific URA with a TIF is being discussed is that it “ties the hands” of future City Councils when it comes to the ongoing funding of infrastructure projects within the downtown district. The reason for this is pretty simple – it is a trust issue. The Administrative arm of City Government does not trust the elected representative arm of City Government to “stay the course” regardless of how “cool” the visionary plans for downtown are.
The problem is that future City Councils could change their mind from year to year as well as from Council to Council. How to make sure City Councils don’t change their minds? Lock up the funds well into the future for this City Council and for many years to follow through the creation of a downtown URA district. I am not going to knowingly tie the hands of this council or future councils with such an agreement that goes well into the future which is unknown and I am sure will have its own share of problems. This would be foolish. It is bad policy to do and is an example of the poorest form of leadership.
4 – Without question downtown has infrastructure needs that are the City’s responsibility. I know that and I am willing to do something about them. What needs to be done and how soon it needs to be done should be a topic for City Council deliberation. Those needs and priorities can then be folded into the well-established Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) process. Since money is finite, this means there are going to be tradeoffs based on priorities. For example, perhaps a traffic circle on Central Park Drive would get built later rather than sooner in exchange for public restrooms downtown. Creating a special Downtown District with its own independent list of infrastructure projects subverts the CIP process. There is no good reason to do this.
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